Depositions are investigative tools utilized to gather evidence. They are part of the discovery processes and an important aspect of any litigated case. Each party to a case, witnesses and experts may be requested or ordered via notice or subpoena to be deposed by another party to the case. A good deposition can help prove the facts of a case, a theory of the case, and put a party in a better position to litigate or settle a case. For many people, a deposition can be daunting and even intimidating. A deponent may not know what to expect or how to conduct him or herself during a deposition.
What Is A Deposition in Washington?
A deposition is when a lawyer for one of the parties asks questions of one of the parties to an action or a third party witness. Depositions usually take place in settings such as lawyers’ offices and conference rooms. As the deponent, your testimony is recorded under oath by a court reporter and can be used as evidence in any proceeding. A deposition either can be recorded stenographically or videotaped.
Preparing For A Deposition
Before the opposing party deposes you, you should prepare for your deposition in Washington.
- Review the facts of your case and any important documents thoroughly before your deposition. If you have questions or concerns about facts or perceived weaknesses in your case, discuss with your attorney about how to handle those questions.
- Review any documents that the deposition notice or subpoena requested you to bring to the deposition.
- Conduct a dry run deposition before your deposition. Have your attorney ask you the hardball questions beforehand.
- Practice and try not to exhibit any facial or physical gestures at a deposition. Opposing counsel may try to use that against you.
- When you prepare for your deposition, have your attorney ask a few inappropriate questions that opposing counsel might ask so that you are prepared.
- When you are asked a question at a deposition, count to three or ten before answering the question. That is, one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, and so forth. This will help you control the tone and pace of the deposition. Practice during your deposition preparation.
- Speak with your attorney about what is appropriate to wear at your deposition so that you present your best self and feel comfortable and confident.
This is an overview of how to conduct yourself and some guidelines to adhere to when being deposed.
- You have the right to have your attorney present during the deposition and for your attorney to assert proper objections to questions. If your attorney objects to a question, wait until your attorney instructs you to proceed to answer the pending question.
- Tell the truth during a deposition.
- If you are culpable in any way, you do have the right not to answer a question or to assert the Fifth Amendment. Do speak with your attorney about how these questions should be handled ahead of time so that you are prepared.
- Being nervous is natural. If you answer a question incorrectly, just state that you were nervous and correct your testimony (acting under the advice of counsel).
- Answer only the question being asked. Do not volunteer information or explain yourself unless your attorney instructs you to do so.
- Depositions may give the appearance of being informal but they are part of the formal court process. Your testimony at a deposition carries as much weight as if it were before a judge or a jury.
- You are not required to guess at an answer. If you do not know the answer to a question, you do have the right to say that you do not know the answer. However, you do have to give your best estimate if you can. For example, if opposing counsel asks you to estimate the size of the table in the conference room where you are being deposed, you can probably give an estimate. Conversely, if opposing counsel asks you to estimate the size of the table in the judge’s chambers and you have never seen the table in judge’s chambers, you are not required to provide an answer and should not offer a guess.
- Listen carefully to opposing counsel’s question and make sure that you think about it and understand the question before you answer. If you do not understand opposing counsel’s question, you do have the right to say, “I do not understand your question.” The same is true if you want a question clarified.
- You do have the right to take breaks during a deposition provided that it is not in the middle of a question. If you want a break, ask for it.
- You can only answer one question at a time. If opposing counsel asks three or four questions at a time, you do have the right to ask which question opposing counsel wants you to answer or ask opposing counsel to specify or rephrase the question.
- You only have to answer a question to the best of your recollection. If you do not remember an answer but think that you may remember later, you can say something to the effect of, “As I sit here today, I do not remember.”
- Many attorneys will try to throw you off your game or shake your testimony by making faces or otherwise behaving inappropriately during a deposition. If opposing counsel makes an inappropriate comment or makes other statements, it is appropriate for you to say, “Is that a question?” You have the right to be treated with respect and it is your attorney’s job to defend you in these situations.
- If you give one answer at a deposition and an inconsistent answer at a court proceeding or at a later date, opposing counsel does have the right to point out that inconsistency.
- After your deposition, the court reporter prepares a transcript of your deposition testimony and you have the right to review your testimony before it is in final form. This does not mean that you can change your answer. Rather, it gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes in your testimony by the court reporter.
If you have been ordered to appear for a deposition in Washington, The Law Offices of Greene & Lloyd, PLLC are available to assist you in your deposition preparation and represent you during your deposition. Contact us at (253) 770-0808.